February 10: Who knew…Roger Miller?

I didn’t get a heck of a lot done today beyond uploading a good number of LPs. The process is time consuming. Also, it requires a kind of sustained low-level concentration to lead the lead in and lead out each side, nice and clean. At first I thought it would be entertaining to listen to all of my LPs but I end up doing other things, I even listen to other music while I’m doing it. It’s not that I don’t want to listen to the LPs it’s that I have to monitor the recording through my wired headphones since I’m using the only line-level out from my phono preamp to feed the A/D converter. My beloved Sennheisers have a nice, long cable but it’s not enough to let me move around as I’d like while monitoring the LP.

Oh well. You can’t have everything.

The downside of all the uploading was that I mismanaged my eating schedule and ended up losing most of my daily hiking time through my need to eat dinner. Muy malo. I’ve got to be better about that.

But wait, who knew…Roger Miller?

I’m sure I’m the last to know that Not in Nottingham was first sung by Roger Miller, way back in 1973, as part of the Disney’s animated version of Robin Hood.

It’s a very clean, melodic song and Miller hits it out of the park with his clean, melodic style.

But the lyrics; hmmm…

Every town
Has its ups and downs
Sometime ups
Outnumber the downs
But not in Nottingham
I’m inclined to believe
If we were so down
We’d up and leave
We’d up and fly if we had wings for flyin’
Can’t you see the tears we’re cryin’?
Can’t there be some happiness for me?
Not in Nottingham

Man, that’s pretty much of a downer for Disney and vague to boot. Perhaps it’s a classic example of something that’s great without being good. The great without good effect is hard to grasp at first but if you think about it I’ll bet you can come up with examples of your own.

Anyway, I have not purchased the song, even though I wanted it to round out my collection of the different versions. It turns out you have to buy the entire soundtrack ($15!) just to get the song. Sorry, but no. I will say that Miller’s version is both first and best. David Hidalgo and Sean Watkins both do a admirable job but there’s simply no improving on the simple beauty, earnestness and tonality that Miller brought to the song. Apparently, I can listen to the whole dang record on Amazon music so that’s going to be good enough to for now. You can also hear the entire song on YouTube so, as is usually the case, where there’s a will there’s a way to enjoy a very unusual song that’s sung unusually well.

Thanks for reading.

February 10: Who knew…Roger Miller?

February 7: Musicians who are missing in action

The internet is an endlessly fascinating place. It has made finding new wonderful musicians easy and immensely satisfying. I could not begin to name all of the musicians who have crossed my path, quite by accident, over the last decade or so.

The odd thing is that occasionally one of them (or two in this case) will go missing, leaving only the music that led me to them in the first place.

The first is Brendan Campbell. He may have had another record at some point, but the only one I know of is Burgers & Murders. I’m listening to Pleiades right now. This guy is so gone that he doesn’t even have a licensing deal with iTunes anymore. I found that out when I realized that none of his songs were on my iPhone. Had they not been downloaded to my MacMini years back that music would have been gone, maybe forever.

Brendan Campbell

The other musician is even more obscure. All John Danley left behind are a handful of videos. He was (is?) a wonderful finger-style player. From what I’ve been able to find he’s totally done with the whole music deal. The last reference I saw about him mentioned that he’d turned to a career in psychotherapy.

John Danley

A handful of years ago, he had a working website. What must have happened for him to let both his website’s eponymous domain and the site itself slip below the electrons of the internet? I just don’t get it. It’s just too easy and inexpensive to keep a website online to let one slip away. I actually mentioned Danley’s name to Will Ackerman a couple years back, along with a link to one of his videos. I had a kind of fantasy that Will might have recognized Danley’s talent and would want to set about using his industry connections to get him discovered, but Danley’s anonymity remains frustratingly intact.

How many more wonderful musicians am I doomed to find and lose? To put a tiny spin of optimism I could say I’m fortunate to have found Danley & Campbell at all, and that’s true. It’s always hard to keep from wanting more, I suppose.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Had I been willing to let this post wait until tomorrow I would have done a better job. For some reason tonight the WordPress desktop app will let me do everything but write a post.

The optimist would say how lucky I am to be able write what I have on my phone.

February 7: Musicians who are missing in action

February 1: Analog and, damn, but January went by fast

pCloud actually finished the digital upload. It didn’t finish on time, but it did finish. So, today I moved the first of the LP AAC files onto pCloud. Files seem to move quickly when, even though the files are large, the number of files are relatively small. I had one early LP that had a skip producing a skip that pissed me off. Since I was familiar with the record I was surprised to find the visibly-evident smudge. Once I found it and cleaned it the LP was fine.

This miniature misadventure got me thinking about analog, especially about the LP. As I have said before, I have no nostalgia or happy feelings toward the LP. They sound better but they are a pain in the ass. There’s no dispute about either end of that sentence, at least to me.

The thought did move me to consider all of the turntables I’ve owned in my 60 years. I need to back up first to my brother’s Acoustic Research AR XA which I am guessing he bought in 1969 or thereabouts. I do not, sadly, recall the cartridge. That was the first analog rig that allowed one to hear into the recording in a way I’ve not generally been able to recreate with any digital equivalents. I was only 8 or 9 then I think it was another handful of years before I bought my first table at Fedco, a BSR. It didn’t sound very good but I liked it anyway. By then, the XA and even the XB were long gone or wildly reduced in quality by whatever forces affected such changes in the early 1970s.

Still, I used that BSR happily until I found a seemingly ancient Empire 298 Troubadour with a poorly-matched Infinity Black Widow arm. The arm was far too low in mass to work properly with the 298 and it took forever to find the proper belt but it sounded pretty good. Again, I do not recall the cartridge but I do remember that the rig was befouled by relentless acoustic feedback and a stubborn ground-loop hum that only my brother, John, was able to chase down.

I then went Japanese, first with an entry-level Technics SL-20 and Empire cartridge that I bought, new, in like 1975. It sounded excellent but suffered from feedback and rather surprising wow and flutter especially since it supposedly used a synchronous motor, so let’s be charitable and blame the speed issues to the drive belt which always felt a bit stretchy.

What next? Well, I’ll have to think for a bit. Holy shit, I remember, even though I would rather not.

It was the Harman/Kardon ST-7 Rabco. Oh my god, the promise. Oh my god, the horror. Straight-line tracking. How do you do better than that? Tell me, how?

I had three of these in the late 1970s, though I do not recall the faults of the first two that resulted in the third. I can only say that the dealer was as unhappy as I was. To say they were casually, tending towards carelessly, assembled would be kind. Yes, the channel balance was superb. And, yes, the speed precision, considering one motor drove two belts (the one that drove the platter and the one that drove the arm) was quite good. But, feedback was horrendous even with the most conscientious placement (another room, more than twenty feet away).

As another reviewer wrote about a pair of Jason Bloom’s Apogee speakers, the ST-7 was a glimpse of heaven and a look at hell, all at once. But, that glimpse of heaven was hard to forget.

A couple years later I bought my first REGA product, a Planar 2. Nirvana. It didn’t sound as good as any of the previous tables I had used yet somehow it sounded more right than any of them. Plus, it worked. It was free of hum, had impeccable speed control and keep feedback at bay. Later, I bought a Planar 3 that I used as a reference while many far more expensive tables made their way into and out of my listening room. The most impressive were the tables from Franc Kuzma, first the Stabi and later the Stabi Reference. Yes, it helped that I was working for the distributor at the time. It also helped that the distributor also brought in the amazing cartridges from Dynavector in Japan.

Ah, Kuzma and Dynavector. Would anyone ever imagine that a Slovenian turntable and a Japanese cartridge would work so well together?

Well, they did.

Hey, wait just a second. I’m way beyond my daily word allotment. I’m going to have to finish this tomorrow. For all of you who care about my analog evolution, please drop by tomorrow. For those of you who don’t care, well, I will leave that decision up to you.

Thanks for reading.

February 1: Analog and, damn, but January went by fast

January 31: More about pCloud than you (or I) ever wanted to know

It’s true, pCloud is coming into the home stretch though I will remind you that the upload process has been very slow (but steady) at least after fooling around with the upload speeds in settings.

There were about 9,000 digital files to start. Owing to its unbelievable initial sluggishness I began to plot its progress to see if I had tossed $50 into the street (yet again).

8057 files were ready for upload on last Sunday:
7916 3:22pm Monday
7767 8:08pm Monday
6658 10:23am Tuesday
6582 2:38pm Tuesday
6442 11:57am Wednesday
6385 3:10pm Wednesday
6274 10:23am Thursday
3902 10:30am Friday
3026 11:09am Saturday
2024 12:04pm Sunday
1288 11:36pm Sunday
1018 11:19am Monday (today)

Right now, it has 50 files (6.33GB) to go but it’s stalled (which seems to happen a couple times a day). When I’m done with this post I will quit and restart which is the recipe to getting things flowing again. Check that; it’s uploading again…44 files remaining (5.87GB) estimated as an hour and thirty-seven minutes (I’m guessing around 12 hours of actual upload time).

Off and on I’ve taken look at the pCloud app, which looks like this on my iPhone:

The pCloud iOS app Home Screen

Now let me explain what I think (and I emphasize the word think) we’re looking at. First of all, the top three folders labeled My Music, My Pictures and My Videos have absolutely nothing in them. That explains why they’re at the top, doesn’t it? I am genuinely unsure if they’re intended to be placeholders or samples or just something to look at.

It’s very weird and significantly kludgy.

But wait, look below and you’ll see a green folder labeled pCloud backup. Now we’re cooking! That’s full of good stuff like what pCloud refers to both within the app and the desktop app as the MacMachine pCloud is Swiss, you know).

The whole deal looks like something AOL would have considered cutting-edge back in 2003.

As I mentioned before, once I’m done with the digital stuff I plan to add a folder called LPs to the upload. It’s good to know approximately where this will live once it’s on p’s cloud.

My hope remains that pCloud will do exactly what I want it to do when it’s all done, house my digital music in a non-Apple cloud as well as the AAC files of my LPs. I’m cautiously optimistic. If it works I’ll be more than happy to pay for a lifetime subscription which is something under $200. I’ll keep you posted.

My musical company this evening is Remembering Mountains sung by Sharon Van Etten from the 2015 record, Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton. Unheard indeed. The record has fewer reviews (18) at Amazon than my first novel (20).

Oh well, I’ll boost the count up to 19 once I’ve penned mine. The title song is fantastic and at least two others (Don’t Make It Easy and At Last the Night Has Ended) are very good. So, here I am listening to and buying songs by a songwriter I’ve never heard of until a couple weeks ago. Who said the internet wasn’t amazing (as well as occasionally horrible, intrusive and possessed of post-apocalyptic potential?). I’m going to try to read up on Dalton. Don’t surprised if you read more about her from me soon.

January 31: More about pCloud than you (or I) ever wanted to know

January 27: Audacity

2021 was apparently the first year that LP sales eclipsed CD sales in decades. It was a small surprise to me and more of a comment on the fact that CD sales are so minimal rather than LP sales being so strong. I am not especially enamored with the LP. It’s just that it’s the best playback method I know of, though it is badly flawed, and that’s before we start talking about the inevitable issue of LP wear. Ugh.

Still, today was an important day. I uploaded my first LP to my Mac. Audacity is both relatively good and totally free. That’s impressive in a day that finds every software company looking to maximize profits. I was stunned that on my very first effort I ended up having a playable side of a decently clean demo pressing of Dylan’s Street Legal. I chose that LP because it was in fair shape (I didn’t know how many times I would have to play it) and because I happen to have a CD of the same record right in front of me.

The initial results were hideous. The RIAA equalization on the front end of the A/D I used was (and I shall not slander the company who made it here), how shall I say this, marginal or worse. So, I climbed around behind my vintage Salamander Designs rack and took the analog feed from the record-out of my preamp just to see if my suspicions were correct.

They were.

Once I was taking the data from this line-level source, one side of the LP came in at a shade over 62MB. Not bad, certainly much better than a FLAC file will alter. I judged the resulting AAC file to sound pretty Ok, in fact significantly better than I had hoped. I’ll do some more careful listening tomorrow before considering uploading the LP side using FLAC. If I use AAC all of my LPs would occupy only about 55GB, which would leave me plenty of room for extra storage mischief (read, the acquisition of more music in digital, CD and LP formats).

The Audacity UI looks like it’s from twenty years ago but it is relatively simple in operation and very well executed. The folks who developed it knew (and know) exactly what they’re doing and exactly what they’re up against. I have to remind myself that none of what I’m doing was anticipated by the originators of any of the technology employed during the creation of the source material. This ability to move analog to digital in this way is all a manifestation of software developers adapting to what came long before in an effort to preserve music that was acquired many years before the technology was anticipated to be able to move it around.

How often does that work out in favor if the music lover / consumer?

In other words, the future of music, at least insofar as how we can store it, would seem to be in good programming hands, as of this writing.

More, as ever, later. Thanks for reading.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is Richard Thompson’s (Guitar, Vocal) 1967-1976. Yup, even the CD is costly today ($25 at Amazon) but you should have it anyway.

Any lover of guitar must…

January 27: Audacity

January 25: The pCloud plan, etc.

The other day I mentioned that I had dropped $50 on a year’s worth of pCloud’s 500GB storage plan.

At the time I was waiting.

Right now, I’m still waiting.

Files are being uploaded at what can charitably be called a leisurely pace. There are 80GB still to go and the estimate for completion is 5 days and change. All of that is Ok if far slower than I would have expected. But, if pCloud is choking on the compressed digital stuff I’m a little concerned that uploading the FLAC files of hundreds of LPs could necessitate a digital Heimlich Maneuver.

I’m going to start slow, however, when it comes to the LPs. In fact, I’m going to upload just one LP. The first upload will be of an AAC file and the second will be FLAC of the same LP. Then, I’m going to listen to both, and I’m going to be cruel. If I don’t find a significant difference I’m going to do the rest of my LP collection via AAC and I won’t look back. You see, I’ve decided if this all works I will probably end up keeping all of my LPs.

That’s not a difficult decision. I love my old Per Madsen rack. It just stands there, not bothering anyone holding hundreds of LPs and CDs (sans jewel cases, of course). Even if were to start buying LPs again regularly, and I find that doubtful, I would be unlikely to buy all that many. Who knows, maybe a handful a year? I may even institute a One In, One Out policy as I do with new shirts. That would work for a while since I have a good number of duplicate LPs and some I will never play. I can pretty much promise the second (and maybe the first) copy I own of Pat Metheny’s Chautauqua is on its way out, one way or the other.

The music management process feels good, if a little tedious like the upload speed of pCloud. I’m actually looking forward to playing every one of the LPs. Some of those guys haven’t been spun in a good long while. They’re all fairly clean but should a dirty one find its way onto the REGA’s glass platter my trusty Nitty Gritty record cleaner is right where I left it on the top shelf of my closet. I’ve got a nice collection of good quality poly sleeves for both LP and CD, too. My guess is I’ve got enough LP sleeves for all of the possible acquisitions I might make from now until the end of my LP spinning days. CD sleeves are another matter. I have less than one pack of 100 left, and I’m using them for my jewel case elimination project. And, the company that sells them keeps pushing their availability date back month by month, with the last being November of last year. My optimism is waning and I’m not aware of a suitable substitute.

Who knows? The ones I have may be the last of their kind, as everything is eventually.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is Giant of Illinois from Andrew Bird’s 2014 record, Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of… It’s an odd, personal and evocative song I find myself listening to again and again.

January 25: The pCloud plan, etc.